How much faith do you have in your backup generator system?
Helicopters represent a marvel of modern engineering. They hover, maneuver, accelerate, and land—all without wings, jets, or a runway. Most helicopters contain numerous mechanical redundancies and failsafe systems to keep them airborne in case of emergency. But many also have one critical design flaw. The main rotor retaining nut, notoriously known as the “Jesus Pin,” stands as the lone helicopter component without a redundant backup. If the nut fails during flight, the propeller disconnects, and gravity transforms what was formerly a helicopter into Newton’s Apple.
Industrial Jesus Pins
Many modern industrial facilities rely on a “Jesus Pin” of a different sort—a stand-alone back-up generator. Traditionally, a high-kW diesel generator provided many advantages in case of a power shortage emergency. Fuel is relatively inexpensive (although diesel fuel has to be replaced periodically to prevent spoilage). And one machine, depending on the size, can usually produce enough power to maintain operations as usual.
They also have one major drawback—when a power emergency occurs, that’s a lot of faith to place in one generator.
Redundancy & Flexibility & Flexibility & Redundancy
Instead of relying on one solitary diesel generator to switch on during power emergencies, more industrial facility designers recognize the benefit of installing systems of smaller, paralleled generators instead. These systems, usually natural-gas fueled, can provide the same amount of power as a larger generator, with exponentially more redundancy, flexibility, expandability, and reliability.
By creating a system of paralleled generators, one or more individual generator can fail and the system as a whole will still produce power, albeit a lesser amount. (Compare this to the all or nothing precariousness of lone diesel unit.) Natural gas, while not quite as cheap as diesel, will still flow even if highway systems clog. It also has the added benefit of not spoiling over time.
Additionally, systems of paralleled generators contain room for expansion. If you need to add a new wing to your facility or install new power-sapping machinery, you can link additional generators into the system to support it, instead of being forced to replace one capital-heavy unit.
Emergencies like power outages (or helicopter malfunctions) occur very rarely. But if/when they do…how much faith are you willing to place in your Jesus Pin?
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